The Spanish Water Dog is an ancient breed. There are several theories regarding its origins, however, the exact origin is not known. One theory suggests that the Turkish merchants brought the dog to the South Iberian Peninsula along with the flocks of livestock as they moved throughout the Mediterranean. Another theory suggests North African origin. Regardless of its exact origin, there is documentation of a wooly coated Water Dog on the Iberian Peninsula in 1110 AD. It is generally accepted that these wooly coated dogs were the ancestors to the common trunk of water dogs.


The breed has been known by many different names, including, Perro de Agua, Perro Turco, Laneto, Perro de Lanas, Perro Patero, Perro Rizado, Churro, Barbeta and most recently Perro de Agua Espanol.


In Spain, the Water Dog was primarily used for herding sheep and goats. In the eighteenth century, a large company called “La Mesta” was responsible for moving livestock, including the Water Dogs, from south to north of Spain and back again searching for fertile grazing areas. This route was known as “Canada Real”. The movement of animals was known as “Trashumancia” Because of this, there were dogs working throughout Spain. When the French Napoleonic forces occupied Spain, the “Trashumancia” began to diminish. Spain’s Queen Elizabeth II’s minister Espartero, gave plots of land to farmers, including livestock and dogs to guard and herd the livestock. The French Aristocracy admired the Water Dog and brought them back to Paris. There are paintings depicting French and Spanish Royalty with Water Dogs which can be seen in “La Palacio de Granja” in Segovia.


While the Industrial Revolution affected the North of Spain and Madrid, it “forgot” the Andalucians. While shepherds in other parts of Spain replaced their herding dogs with German Shepherd Dogs and Belgian Shepherds, the Water Dog remained in the Southern part of Spain, especially Cadiz and the mountains of Malaga in Andalucía due to its ability to work in the mountains. At the same time, in the ports of Seville, Algecieras and Malaga, the Water Dog was used to tow boats to shore. Later, when this task was no longer necessary, they were used in the Northern part of the country to assist the fisherman with their nets.


The Water Dog was also used for hunting water fowl and upland game. The fishermen in the Northern part of Spain preferred the lighter colored dogs because they were easier to see in the water, so they primarily used white, beige and bi-colored dogs. The farmers preferred the darker colored dogs because they were easier to see in the pastures, so most of those dogs were brown or black.


The revival of the breed

It is reported, that in 1975, two enthusiasts, Antonio Garcia Perez and Santiago Montesinos travelled around the countryside of Southern Spain, through the smallest villages and farms of the mountainous region of Andalucía and bought and borrowed a number of dogs that they felt fitted the type they were looking for to establish a breeding program.




In 1980 The Spanish Water Dog Club (Spain) was formed in order to promote the breed and help get it recognized in its own country. Then in 1985, after a lot of hard work and displaying the breed at various venues and dog shows, The Spanish Kennel Club accepted the breed and gave it official status. The Spanish Water Dog is now becoming well established in many countries including Germany, Finland, Sweden, Great Britain and the United States.


The recent history of the breed began around 1980 when at a dog show in San Pedro, Malaga, a woman named Mrs. Mesdag brought a Spanish Water Dog to be shown as an Andalucian Breed. This show was organized by Santiago Montesinos Rubio and judged by RSCE judge David Salamanca Ortega. At the show, Antonio Garcia Perez, who was showing German Shepherd Dogs, saw the dog and told Mr. Montesinos and Salamanca that he has seen many of these dogs in Ubrique and surrounding areas (Andalucía) and always wondered why he could never find the breed in any dog book, as they were with his family as long as anyone could remember. Santiago Montesinos, who was from Estepa (Seville) also, remembered the dogs from his youth. Antonio Garcia asked Mr. Salamanca and Mr. Montessinos to help him get the breed recognized, and they agreed. The first thing they did is request photographs and any records that might be available. Santiago Montessinos Rubio then formed Club de Perro de Agua and designed the logo. He came to Ubrique and surrounding areas, using his own money to take photographs and study the breed. He sent many letters to the RSCE (Central Kennel Club of Spain), but got no response.


In the summer of 1983, Antonio Garcia Perez met with the Ministry of Agriculture, bringing many photographs and Super 8 film, to discuss the Standard for the Breed. The Standard that he initially wrote and presented was for two different sizes of Spanish Water Dogs, but they would not accept this, so the Official Standard was made into one with a larger range of sizes. It was based on a dog named “Lucky” owned by Antonio Morena. It was accepted by the Ministry of Agriculture. In the fall of that same year, at the Madrid World Dog Show at Hipodromo de la Zarauela, two brown dogs were shown, one male and one female. The President of the Spanish Government, Mr. Filipe Gonzalez was in attendance at the show. He told the President of the RSCE, Mr. Valentin Alvarez that he knew the breed because he had seen them in South Andalucía where he grew up. Antonio Garcia Perez promised Mr. Gonzalez a puppy once the breed was officially recognized.


On May 19, 1985, at the Madrid International Dog Show, held at Retiro Park, 47 Spanish Water Dogs were shown to be registered for the first time. There were 42 dogs from the South of Spain and 5 from the North. Due to all the dogs not meeting the Standard, for example some were Albino or had the incorrect bite, about 40 dogs were registered. The breed was officially recognized by RSCE and put into FCI Group VIII (flushing dogs) Section 3 (water dogs). The PDAE was provisionally recognized by FCI until 1999 when it received full recognition.


On September 6, 1986, Antonio Garcia Perez presented a male puppy to Mr. Gonzalez at the Palacio de LaMoncloa. The dog was a brown dog called “Rabon”, born with a natural bob tail. A few days later, the first “Monografica” was held in Ubrique with 27 dogs and was judged by Mr. Marquez de Parales. Best in Show was a brown male named “Marquez Chocolat”. Best of Opposite was a bitch called “Mori”


Antonio can be seen here working one of his dogs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQWpGmlU3hQ


The Spanish Water Dog can still be found working in the mountains of southern Andalucía herding goat and sheep as they have been for the last 1000 years. They are also used for many more modern tasks such as Search and Rescue and bomb sniffing by the Spanish Government.


In the water

As their middle name suggests, these dogs excel in the water and will dive for a sunken object if necessary. They will want to retrieve any dummy or bird that is out of reach of another dog, and will swim time and time again; their webbed feet, muscular body and action in the water make them powerful swimmers for their size.  



Spanish Herdsman have said that these dogs can carry out herding and control of animals with surprising efficiency even though they receive no training. They work with one herdsman obeying his commands either vocal or signals but they also work on their own initiative, being constantly vigilant and regrouping the flock. With training, Spanish Water Dogs will demonstrate great ability, and successfully drive herds of headstrong animals such as goats and cattle.



Retrieving comes naturally to this breed and many of the youngsters are not happy unless carrying something in their mouths. Often they will pick up the nearest object available to greet owners and friends.


The breed is very quick to learn and basic training has to be balanced while giving the dogs a challenge. Sometimes it is easy to forget how young a dog is because their mind is always on their work. The breed tends to be independent and thinks it knows better than its owner. Nevertheless, harsh handling is not successful in training, due to their sensitive nature with people. They are not gushy as a breed; they all concentrate 100% on the task before them. A balanced approach is necessary. This breed loves to hunt, making use of air and ground scent, some have been seen to point, whereas others show acknowledgement of game.


When Spanish Water Dogs first took part in demonstrations in the UK, the smiles and laughter as everyone saw these sheep-like dogs soon gave way to silence when they saw their speed and agility. People commented how impressed they were with the natural working ability of the dogs.